Forms of Devotionals

I’ve been doing some thinking lately, regarding a topic I briefly mentioned in my last post—spontaneous devotionals vs. ritualized, consistent devotionals.

At the start of my relationship with my patron, spontaneous devotionals were the only sort I did. Doing devotional work because I had to was unthinkable—I felt as though forcing myself to honor my god meant my work would lose all its sincerity and become a menial task.

I’ve often heard people relate forming patron relationships with deities like dating, and it seems like a pretty accurate metaphor. There’s the honeymoon phase, where everything you do is with your patron in mind, every breath you take becomes a whisper of love and thanks. Then you slowly start to peel away the romanticized view of your patron and relationship, and realize that like any relationship, this will take work from both ends.

The ‘honeymoon’ phase of my patronage lasted quite a while—two or three years, I would say. Within those years, I didn’t have to strain to hear or feel my patron—I knew he was there. It was like stepping outside and being aware of everything—the warmth of sunlight hitting your bare skin, the breeze playing with your hair, the smell of rain. I didn’t have to go looking for our connection, it was just always there.

This sensitivity to my patron made it easier to connect with him, and to break out into spontaneous devotional multiple times a day. It was something that came as naturally as breathing.

But now that I’m past that phase, now that I don’t sense him as easily anymore, I realize that I’ve been relying on him to instigate my devotionals. I was in need of constant reminders of his presence to acknowledge him, however easy it might have been.

Now I can go days, weeks even, without having that awareness of his presence. It’s getting harder and harder to be sincere in my work, and occasionally I forget why I do it. When I doubt myself or when I doubt Him, it’s a struggle to sing like I used to, or even just bask in his warmth. I know he’s still here, but it shouldn’t be his sole responsibility to tap into our connection. For so long, I relied on him to be the spark of inspiration necessary for my devotionals, that I forgot my role in our relationship. I can just as easily reach out to him, instead of waiting for him to reach out to me—I just refused to, be it because of my lack of faith, or my skepticism, or my lingering doubts.

And that, I see now, is where daily or ritualized devotionals come into play. While it may not be as heartfelt as spontaneous devotionals, it too serves its own purpose—and in my case, that purpose is to remind me of my patronage.

It is to remind me of the work I’ve done, the obstacles I’ve overcome, the experiences I’ve had, and the love I’ve felt. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come, both as a person, and as a devotee.

And, I think He appreciates this just as much as spontaneous devotionals, if not more. With spontaneous devotionals, they’re usually always in the form of praise, honor, and thanks-giving. Because he sees us as equals, this doesn’t always jive well with him. I think he tolerates it because it is what I grew up with, and is all I’ve ever known in terms of how to honor one’s god. That being said, he has broken me out habits that he sees as totally unacceptable, such as kneeling while praying.  Even thanking him too often or for little things has gotten me scolded before, so I’ve learned to restrain myself.

Like I said, it requires work from both ends of the relationship.

Patronage

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately regarding how one gets to know the gods, or determines their patron. I think my posts have been giving people the wrong impression concerning patronage in general.

For my purposes, I’ll be using the word ‘patron’ in the context of a deity who has a significant role in one’s life, to the point where one doesn’t merely honor them through devotional activities or offerings, but does their Work and lives their lives as representative of that deity’s presence.  In other words, I’m not talking about the god you may work with primarily, or the one you like the most, but the one who, in essence, lives through you. I know sometimes ‘patron’ is thrown around as equivalent to any god you may feel especially connected to, but this is my definition of it.

First off, let me make it clear that you don’t need a patron to lead a fulfilling spiritual life. I know I make a big deal about how Lucifer ‘saved’ me from my depression and loss of faith, but there’s always that skepticism in me that wonders whether or not I made it out of that deep dark hole on my own—which of itself would be a great thing. That means I had the strength to pull through without the aid of a deity. I’m rather partial to the view that if the gods aren’t messing with your life, it means you’re not screwing up bad enough to need their help.

However, just because you may not be ‘called’ by a god doesn’t mean you aren’t free to go introduce yourself anyways. Introducing yourself doesn’t mean demanding a relationship or help! You wouldn’t go up to a complete stranger and tell them you’re bffs now, and that they’re obliged to help you find a job because you made the effort to reach out. Relationships with gods aren’t really much different from relationships with other people—there will be gods you just won’t get along with, and some you may connect with without a hitch. I originally sought out Artemis, and I got absolutely nothing. Not a peep. Actually, looking back on it now, I think I rather annoyed her. As for demanding help—I will admit that in the past I have been guilty of this. Blame it on my naiveté, but I used to think that I could just toss an offering a god’s way and I would get what I was asking for (protection, wealth, etc.). You may get what you ended up asking for…but with a catch. You could ask for safe travels, and end up at your destination safe and sound…but not without a few scares along the way. Just keep in mind that the gods don’t respond well to bribery, which is pretty much what I was doing as a young and foolish kid.

But anyways, what I mean by introducing yourself and getting to know the gods is just that—talk to them. Build a relationship. Sometimes that may start off as you just speaking aloud to them, about anything really. That’s how I started off with Lucifer—I wasn’t expecting any response, much less an actual relationship.  Those of you who have used tarot or runes, you might want to try that as a method of communication as well. Meditation works well too, if you aren’t headblind like me.

So what happens once you’ve got a solid foundation with a particular god? A lot of times, nothing. Like I said, not everyone needs a patron god. Ask yourself why you need to deepen your relationship—what’s wrong with just having someone you can run to for help in a crisis? Do you really need/want a god nagging at you or messing with your life (not always for the better)? Also, the god in question may not want a patron relationship with your either. Patronage is a lot of responsibility, on both ends. The gods are in charge of molding and shaping the person you are to become, and you bear a similar duty to represent those gods as your mentors and teachers.

You can still work with a god to better yourself without the burden of patronage. Sarasvati has been gracious enough to help me rekindle my passion for dance and the arts, but doesn’t expect me to do anything apart from the occasional puja and devotional dancing—and in my opinion, this is the best sort of relationship. The balanced reciprocity we share is that of security and stability—I can be sure (well, as sure as anyone can be when dealing with gods) that as long as I hold up my end of the bargain concerning offerings and devotionals, she will continue to teach and guide me. This isn’t the case with patronage. While I wouldn’t say you have to have blind faith, you do have to have a certain level of trust in your god during those times when it doesn’t seem like they’re really there anymore. I’ll go weeks without any signs from Lucifer, and I have to remind myself why I continue with my devotionals, or why I bother checking myself while I’m out in public, to be sure that I’m acting in a manner befitting of one of his disciples—I mean, no one knows I’m one of His own, or that my actions and words reflect my patron, so what’s the point?

And then, out of nowhere, I’ll get a reminder of why I do it. A reminder that he’s still there, that he’s still guiding me. And then I realize why I do it—not because it makes me special, or out of some obligation, but out of love. Even though he drives me crazy sometimes, and his lessons aren’t always the easiest to learn, I know that he has my best interests at heart.

He couldn’t force me to become his disciple, just as I couldn’t have forced him to become my patron. I don’t have to be his eyes and ears in this world, or take time out of my day to write up stuff like this just so someone may or may not begin to question what they’ve been taught about him, but I want to, because it gives him hope.

This is what patronage is, in my mind—a relationship based on trust, hope, and faith.